Somewhere along the way, I started striving to become more of what I thought was admirable in others instead of being the person God created me to be.
I’ve always had the tendency to be a people pleaser, and perfectionist. I struggled with putting unreasonable expectations on myself. The more I compared myself to others, and pursued acceptance from others, the more my life became fueled by the “shoulds.” I was motivated by what I believed I SHOULD do to be accepted by others, or doing what I thought I SHOULD do to avoid criticism from others (which is impossible to completely avoid). I was looking for worth and acceptance in all the wrong places.
For example, I am an introvert and struggled with social anxiety growing up. I was a very quiet child away from home. Being an introvert means you tend to go inward to process things, and think before you speak. I often received comments such as “you are so sweet, it’s too bad you are so quiet” or “I wish you would just talk more!” I noticed I was sometimes overlooked or underestimated by others.
I remember a time in particular when I was 11 and auditioned to be a cheerleader. I am a lifelong dancer and also loved gymnastics so it seemed to be the best of both worlds. That very first year, I didn’t make it. They told me it was because I was “too quiet,” not because of my physical abilities. I actually did cheer the next year and throughout high school. But, the messages I heard growing up always stuck with me. I began to view my strengths as weaknesses, such as being introspective or listening before I speak. From my perspective, talkative and outgoing people seemed to be more accepted and admired. I often thought, “I should be like that,” believing a lie that I was wired wrong somehow. My tendencies to fix things turned inward, just as it did when I was trying to change my body.
I often pushed myself to talk more, and do things that scared me. Although these habits helped me overcome my social anxiety, I started trying to be more and more like the people around me. Instead of honoring how I was made, I was striving to be more of what I thought was admirable in others. While God may ask us to step out of our comfort zone—He gives us the strength to do whatever He calls us to—I started LIVING outside of my comfort zone.
I was an introvert forcing myself to be an extrovert. It nearly broke my body down. There were many days I spent talking all day, which is draining as an introvert. I would often go straight to other activities at night. I was expending my energy quickly and not giving myself a chance to stop and recharge. I wanted to change the world and be great at what I did, so I kept pushing. The more exhausted I felt, the more I relied on caffeine to get through the day.
Because I was trying to be someone I wasn’t created to be, and not being a good steward of my energy, my body started fighting me. I was living in exhaustion, anxiety, and overwhelm. I also felt sick all the time with digestive and breathing issues.
Although there are times God glorifies Himself in our weakness, in our day to day interactions we tend to be the most effective when we honor who we are and utilize the unique gifts and talents God has given us. There is more of an ease to how we live, rather than trying to fit a mold we weren’t made to fit in.
He created us all different for a reason. We were made to complement each other and work together. Some of us are extroverts, and some of us are introverts. We have different spiritual gifts, different passions, and different experiences. We also have different body sizes and shapes. We are not all meant to be the same. I love the passages in the Word regarding the Body of Christ.
“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us…”
Romans 12:4-6 NIV
I’ve been dealing with some muscular issues recently. It reminds me of how important it is to honor how you are made. For reasons I don’t fully know—most likely habits I created from walking like a dancer my whole life—over the years, the stabilizer muscles in my hips became really weak. It’s amazing I was able to walk without falling on my face, most of the time. The weaker these muscles became, the more other muscles, like my quads, kicked in to do their job, muscles designed for power and strength. Because there were muscles doing what they WEREN’T created to do, and other muscles WEREN’T doing what they WERE created to do, it eventually caused a lot of dysfunction and pain. I am currently going to physical therapy to reawaken and strengthen the weakened muscles, to restore balance.
It reminds me of how we all function together like this, as a body. We serve best when we do what WE are uniquely created to do.
As I grew closer to the Lord over the years, the more I learned the real truth. Truth helped me reject the lies I was holding on to. Truth is what sets us free. It is a continual process of renewing our minds; just like bathing regularly or doing the dishes so they don’t pile to the ceiling. For me, this means regularly spending time with God in the Word, in prayer, and silence before Him, listening to what He has to say. I also read books or listen to podcasts that help me maintain the right perspective. It is also important to spend time with the right people, as much as you are able, people who lift you up instead of tear you down. We were meant to build each other up and encourage one another.
It is also important to speak your shame out loud. For many years I internalized how I was feeling, and the shame grew. The enemy breeds in isolation, and shame grows when we hide it. It was only when I was able to open up to others, not to just anyone, but to those who earned this trust, I was able to challenge the lies I believed about myself. It may require speaking with a professional to work through thoughts patterns and feelings you may not realize you have or need support working through.
After much prayer and God working in me over the years, I made needed changes in my career and in my lifestyle. I am now more intentional about doing work I am passionate about while honoring how I am made. Many times this just means intentionally leaving time to rest and refuel, depending on how draining certain activities may be. It also means creating space to pursue other God given passions I previously put on the back burner.
I’ve learned to live my life more authentically and not be ruled by what I call the “shoulds.” Instead of constantly striving to be what I think is admirable in others, I’ve learned to be more of who I am; the person God created me to be. It will always be a journey, and my tendencies to live by the “shoulds” will always be something I need to be aware of and resist.
I like to call the confidence you find in God, “God confidence.” God confidence is the confidence you get when you find your true identity in God and fully embrace how He made you.
As I mentioned before, God also made us in different shapes and sizes. There is no one right way to look, even though our current culture encourages us to believe otherwise.
Just as I believed my personality was “wrong” for many years, I have seen so many people throughout my career who believe their body is “wrong.” When we feel like our body is “wrong,” it creates constant pressure to change our body, often times at any cost. Even if your body is more accepted by society’s standards, you may feel pressure to maintain the body you have, fearing weight gain or changes your body may go through as you age. Just as I experienced my body fighting my efforts to be someone I wasn’t, our bodies fight our efforts to change how it naturally wants to be.
The reason I fell in love with Intuitive Eating and Health at Every Size is because it takes this into consideration. It approaches taking care of ourselves by not trying to change ourselves, but tuning in and honoring how we are made.
Freedom comes from acceptance. Accepting ourselves and how we are made does not mean we necessarily always like all aspects of our being—this is not realistic—but it frees us from the fight of trying to change ourselves all the time. Our bodies will fight back, and often we feel we are to blame when this happens. Accepting ourselves paves the way for us to feel gratitude for how we are made and recognize our God given strengths. I may not always like that I get nervous around a crowd, just as someone else may not like the way certain aspects of their body may look, but accepting how I am wired opens me up to feel grateful for the more positive aspects of my being, such as being able to sit alone for hours writing, or being a good listener. Accepting your body opens you up to be grateful for all it does for you, even if you don’t always like the way it looks.
When we accept ourselves, and therefore respect how we are made, it also opens us up to take care of ourselves. Body hate does nothing for us. Body hate harms us.
Have grace and compassion for yourself, just as God has for you. Be intentional with seeing yourself how God sees you. Meditate on verses that remind you of God’s love FOR you and His delight IN you. The more we fill our minds with God’s truth, the more we can reject the outside pressures and lies we may be bombarded with daily.Follow me on social media: